New Jersey – How Can You Challenge A Federal Criminal Conviction?
Federal criminal appeals are confusing to many people. It can be difficult for the public, convicts, and even attorneys to learn the ins and outs of appellate courts. Federal appellate judges work in closed offices. The exception is with oral arguments, which courts may hold several times yearly, once each month, or once each week.
Though the appellate courts are distanced from the public eye, there are still ways to get through to them.
To challenge a federal conviction, you have to go through the appellate process with the federal appeals court. But there are some things to know before doing that.
The Case Will Not Be Retried
When you appeal a conviction, you’re not getting a second chance to plead your case or offer your evidence. You cannot use your appeal to open the trial proceedings and re-examine the facts. Appeals and trials do not function the same way.
A federal criminal appeal is a process also known as a direct appeal. It refers to the legal proceeding in which an appellate lawyer will attack the conviction or court order due to a legal issue. The appeal will not retry the evidence. Instead, the appeals process is mostly done through writing, in which attorneys will gather evidence that legal errors occurred in the original court proceeding.
Appellate courts function very differently from district courts. They do not have official reporters, juries, or witness stands. An appellate court is there to resolve legal arguments regarding legal technicalities.
The Notice of Appeal
You may receive a document called a Notice of Appeal. This isn’t your actual appeal. The notice of appeal informs the appellate court and district court that you intend to appeal the court judgment. With federal proceedings, the notice needs to be filed in the ten-day period following the original sentencing.
The notice of appeal can be filed before the actual appeal. You don’t need to gather all your appellate evidence in the ten days after a conviction. But it is vital that you do file the request for appeal in the correct time period.
It’s best to know right away whether you intend to appeal. Don’t wait until your very last moment to file your notice.
A Slow Process
You only have ten days to file your notice of appeal. What happens then?
The answer is often that the appeal is put together very slowly. You’re unlikely to see any conviction or sentencing overturned before you begin serving it. An appeal over a federal criminal conviction can take months, sometimes more than a year.
Federal courts are very busy. At the same time, the appeals process is slow. The courts need to take an individual look at every single legal claim and case. In the past few decades, the process has sped up considerably thanks to technology. Briefs are often accepted electronically, and the attorneys can do research on their computers instead of using a law library.
But though these processes have sped up, appeals are still fundamentally slow. Each appeal requires a judge to research, read, and take into account the arguments. Judges need to put time and energy into every single appeal. Though appellate judges have assistants and clerks, they still have a limited number of hours in a week.
Nearly 75 percent of all appeals cases are resolved without any parties delivering any oral arguments whatsoever. The judge makes their decision based purely on the written briefs they receive.
In the appeals process, a brief is written by the appellant. It explains the case facts and includes an argument about the errors in legal proceeding. This brief will generally be written by the appellate lawyer for the convicted individual. Every piece of the brief must be factually cited, and every legal argument must have a citation regarding previous court precedent.
After the first brief goes through the filing process, the prosecutor will file their response. In federal cases, this is typically the government. The response contains an objective statement of facts and an answer for every argument provided in the opening. It must also be cited extensively.
The majority of appeals courts will let the appellant respond to the appellee’s counterarguments.
The judge will read these briefs, take into consideration the arguments being made on both sides, and come to a conclusion. Rarely do they need to hear oral testimony.